Week 12: Readings and Comments
by Zach Tomaszewski
for LIS 699-2, Fall 2001, supervised by Dr. Luz Quiroga
To find out a bit of what others are doing with IA, I did a Google search on "information architecture" restricted to the edu domain. Here's some of the interesting sites that came up.
Classes and Programs
- This page is from an online LIS course that touches on IA briefly.
(Have you ever heard of Richard Saul Wurman? Information Architects. Apparently he coined the term. Seems this is where the graphical designers == IAs comes from. Might have some validity.)
- Also from UTexas-Austin. A course solely on IA. They start with a week of reviewing print media, which is a good idea. (I've been thinking, since our last meeting, that such a review would be quite helpful.) Actually in the English department! Under Rhetoric and Composition.
This is form the School of Information at U of Michigan. [I'm curious how this page got indexed; it seems it's generated on the fly. Perhaps a link to it from somewhere.] All of the SI course descriptions are at: http://intel.si.umich.edu/cfdocs/si/courses/course/catNum.cfm. It's interesting to see all these courses under one school -- programming (Java), XML, preservation, usability, project management, search and retrieval. It seems HCI, LIS, archiving, etc. are each divisions of the school, rather than the school being a compilation of these areas. Not sure though. All the library science courses are still here (many of the same titles as UH). The course "Choice and Learning" sounds really interesting. (So much to learn; only one lifetime.)
- A whole Masters degree in IA. In Maryland. Looking at their course descriptions, however, I see that they have a strong computer science leaning. It's all networking and programming languages, firewalls and servers. One course on intellectual property rights. This is a different idea of information architecture. This is a different kind of academic environment in general, I think--more functional and hardware, less theoretical and information.
- Indiana SLIS department. Neat idea to spend half the course on learning markups (coded by hand) and scripting. But doesn't leave much time for IA perhaps. Also talks about management and collaboration issues, which is important for actually practicing IA.
- An summer course. In a department combining Education and Information Science.
- From UBaltimore's School of Communication Design. Good reading list. Other classes include hypermedia and interface design.
Kent State's IA and Knowledge Management. Under LIS, but collaborates with communications, visual design, journalism, info management, and computer science. They provide a masters degree. There site is pretty navigable, but provides basically no clues to its structure.
These were the most promising of the first 60 or so results. Important points for devising a course/program:
- Definitely go multi-disciplinary if possible. I really like the idea of a course with multiple teachers. Also, advertise the course in all possibly-related fields to try to get some students from areas other than ICS/LIS.
- Most IA texts are rather theoretical. How best to make it concrete and to give some experience? Management and collaboration are important parts of IA--perhaps cover this aspect early and do some group projects. Would a class project be too unwieldly? Yet the larger the project, the more important IA becomes. What kind of design project wouldn't be trivial?
- What texts to use? Web Navigation and IA for the WWW are both popular, as are Wurman's books.
I ran into a couple other neat pages along the way.
- "Shaping knowledge into form" -- a neat organization trying to give visual structure to information. They mention creating info spaces; basically, wayfinding. They have a neat applet that is supposed to help navigate AI articles. I'm not sure if this could become more "intuitive" than traditional hierarchical web design. Reminded me of a zoo layout. (Note: find out if there is any writing on navigation/planning for zoo or amusement park layouts.)
- Neat idea: trying to depict info graphically in an organic way. Viewing the structue as a whole should give a sense of the state and nature of its parts.
This exercise itself took longer than I expected. Each page is in a different site, and so it takes a couple minutes to orient to a new system and try to find further information.
- Discussed a bit of philosophy of technology: whether it is preferable to provide an interface and attempt to give control to the user or create an autonomous agent that performs the work for the user.
- Discussed teaching styles, such as traditional, structured lecture verses a very freeform, laidback collaborative discussion forum.
- Wondered whether to integrate IA into existing classes, or to create a separate class. Decided it would be best to create a stand-alone class, though perhaps with some collaboration with other disciplines.
To Week 13 →